Changing from within or not?

So I went to a Sex Trafficking panel led by the interfaith group at UCSC. The panel was comprised of a nun, a man, and a cop from the San Jose Police Department, whose position is being in charge of the human trafficking cases for the south bay counties, to include Santa Cruz and Monterrey.

It was as expected, they came from the all sex workers are victims, and one of them thought all porn == objectification, and that leads to sex trafficking (her logic is beyond me).

I was the only one trying to separate the 2 things (Sex and Sexuality) from Slavery and trafficking.

I was happy when the Cop said, there is a very miniscule amount of sex trafficking happening in this area. He also said he’s working on a case against 2 men who trafficked 2 women from Nevada to come work as sex workers. I’m not against these people, I’m glad they are fighting to end slavery. I just wish they would explore their sexuality, and come to respect sex workers, and not see us as victims.

Also tonight in Santa Cruz, the city council was voting on banning sitting on public park benches for more than an hour, and also sitting on the sidewalk, and a host of other things aimed at eradicating the less desirables from downtown in an effort to increase public safety.

These events have made me re-evaluate the best way for organizational change. Is it smart to work from outside, and try to lobby the city council to understand sitting on park benches is not bad, or that sex work is actual work, or that sex and porn is different than (and does not lead to) sexual trafficking?

Or is it smarter to try and work from the inside, to get into the government, to get on the city council, to get in with the Human Trafficking police organizations, and change from within?

I feel like I’m at a crossroads in my personal life, to see where I want my direction to go. I’m very dedicated to human rights work, and to sex workers rights, but how best can I affect social change, for my friends, brothers, sisters and be allies to others?

Perhaps the very last of my Social Change through Non-Violent Communication class tomorrow night can help me come to some sort of conclusion. I pose the question:

How best to affect social change for our movement?

13 Responses

  1. I think it’s important to express how under the criminalization of prostitution, sex workers are being forcibly trafficked into jail cages and ask why anybody who is truly against human trafficking would support forcibly trafficking sex workers into jail. The tactics used in the enforcement of anti-prostitution laws mirror the tactics used in human trafficking, such as the use of force and deception to gain control, and unjustly holding people captive against their will. Furthermore, the criminalization of prostitution takes the main focus away from stopping actual human trafficking and shifts the focus toward arresting and imprisoning sex workers. Since the issue of human trafficking is being used to justify the criminalization of prostitution, it is essential to express these points. It’s important not to deny that human trafficking is a problem because if it’s happening at all, then it’s a problem. Trying to deny that it’s a problem will make it come across like we’re in denial or as if we just don’t care. Rather, we need to express how decriminalizing prostitution is part of the fight against human trafficking.

  2. Hi sexworkeradvocate!

    I wasn’t really making arguments about human trafficking, we all know that non-consensual anything, and slavery is WRONG and BAD, and I have never met anyone in the SW rights community that feels differently.

    I agree that attacks on prostitution as sex trafficking does take the main focus away from actual trafficking, and I’m not happy with the anti-sex rhetoric being used to make sex trafficking seem somehow worse. How worse does it need to be?!

    My question is more of how do we keep growing our message, Not what our message should be (tho that is also a great topic!).

  3. I would suggest that you talk with actual law enforcement, like the cop on the panel. That might be a good way to start changing things.

    It’s up to you, though.

  4. I understand your frustration and how it can be annoying that people always see sex-workers and especially women in these businesses as poor objectified girls who were forced into it and are victims.

    But as you said, these people are fighting against real problems, and though lot of girls are not enslaved, some are trafficked and those need help. Likewise, lots of persons end up in this situation more or less willingly, and though even lots of them advocate that they chose this career path and enjoy it, you cannot just reject the simple fact that everybody is a product of his or her environment, acquaintances, friends, relatives and education. It takes a lot of self-control to not let yourself blindly and unconsciously guide towards a specific direction.

    The approach is certainly twisted… And I wish governments would acknowledge the existence of sex-workers and their rights, to use them as the framework to control and reduce problems from the inside, instead of fighting them as well as a whole.

    In the end I do believe that there’s something f*cked up in this world and that prostitution should *not* exist, or at least not in the form we know. But it’s there and I would prefer sex-workers to be safe and supported in what they do.

  5. I already have started a discussion with him. He personally (as he made abundantly clear during his speech) is that all sex workers are victims. So I don’t see a lot of change happening with him, except perhaps he gets to know me as a person, and realize that you know not all sex workers are victims. Even so, some of the things they want to do to us victims, is quite gross,and further undermines our ability to be respected as human beings.

    Yet, I still want to end slavery.

    This particular cop is holding a human trafficking class in the next couple of months, that I plan on attending.

  6. Banning sitting on a public bench for more than an hour? What? When I think of the times I have saved myself when ill or bored or upset and needing to sit somewhere and rest! What happened with the discussion?

  7. I am always cautious about “working from the inside” arguments, because one way or another, the truth is that “once you’re in, everything tends to look pretty good the way they are”; it’s not always conscious, but retaining the campaigning fervour is hard when you’re on the inside. Government systems are built to damp down change as much as possible, and there are usually people around who will do all they can to water down any active proposals until they are meaningless or ineffective.

    On the other hand, campaigning from outside alone has very little impact for much the same reasons: the system is built to absorb the rocking from outside without real change.

    Probably the only effective approach is to run both at the same time; to get some people inside, but make sure they remain fervent by reminding them all the time of the campaigners on their side, and coordinating efforts from both angles.

  8. Compassiontara wrote:
    “This particular cop is holding a human trafficking class in the next couple of months, that I plan on attending.”
    There’s power in numbers, so it would be great if various sex workers’ rights activists show up to this class. Santa Cruz isn’t all that far from San Francisco, so hopefully, if you post information about the exact times and dates of this class when you find out, activists in the San Francisco Bay area will join you in the class.

  9. Laura:
    Agenda Items specifically Downtown and Business District Improvement Measure – Ordinance.
    Action Agenda.

    The official meeting minutes haven’t been published yet.

    I agree this is not cool. I was not able to attend, as I was at the above mentioned Sex Trafficking panel instead.

    sexworkeradvocate:
    Believe me I’ll be publishing to swop-norcal’s mailing list about it, once I get all the details!

  10. The police have to be held accountable for their profiting off the criminalizing of prostitution. They have to be transparent about how much money they are getting to hold these classes. He’s getting paid to say that prostitutes are victims. How much money is this department getting to promote prostitutes as victims. How many of us has he put in jail? How many victims has he put in jail? How many victims has he rescued? How many traffickers has he arrested? Is he arresting people for being victims? For being prostitutes? Traffickers? How many people have actually charged with being a trafficker?

    I’m in Brazil at the world social forum as the guest of Karnataka Sex Workers Union.

    http://kswu.blogspot.com/

    some of the leaders couldn’t come because the police have taken actions against them and they couldn’t get visas!

  11. I share some of Maxine’s concerns and she asks valid questions. It’s disturbing how so many of the proponents of criminalized prostitution talk about how sex workers are such victims. If they really think this, then why are they arresting sex workers or supporting policies that are resulting in sex workers being arrested and further victimized by the criminal (in)justice system? If this officer is commited to fighting actual cases of slavery, I totally support him in this. However, I have a huge problem with the police talking about how sex workers are such victims and then arresting and imprisoning these people they’re calling victims, while also opposing our efforts to decriminalize prostitution. Also, when the police talk about how sex workers are such victims, they often seem to overlook how law enforcement is doing some of the victimizing. In some cases, the perpetrators of abuse against sex workers are the police officers who are enforcing the anti-prostitution laws.

  12. Damn I wish sometimes, most of the time, I lived in California. I’d like to be there. I’d like to talk to this cop, to ones like him. Perhaps his heart is in the right place and he wants to rescue those in sexual slavery. That’s an admirable goal and I wish him well and even would love to help him in that goal. Who wouldn’t? Most would want to help anyone that is suffering slavery to escape.

    What does the sex slave have to do with sex worker rights though? Again, whether through ignorance or deliberate politics, the police officer, like so many others, merge the two. Two separate issues. I wish he, wish society could see that these are not interlocked issues. It is counter productive and honestly dishonest to conflate the two. And often the only time many want to separate them is if a sex worker rights activists comments on human trafficking at which time you hear the cliches about what does a rich escort know about human trafficking, slavery etc,,,,,,,, Well, probably more than the cop knows about either issue, or many esteemed feminist academic types like Farley., but

    Working within. I don’t know that change can ultimately happen without working within at least to some degree. But as long as sex workers are seen as all victims and are disenfranchised it is very difficult to work from within. Empowerment of sex worker of sex worker rights activists has to be part of that process. Which is a battle in itself because organizations like SAGE need the cliches, need the status quo of victimization and arrest and aren’t going to make it easy for sex worker rights based activists and orgs to gain a place inside.

    Nonetheless we have to work toward that goal. Find allies where we can that are on the inside. Damn I wish I could talk with this cop……….

    off topic, why is it so f-ing cold this year in North Carolina. Damn I need to be where it’s warmer

  13. Personally, I think it’s important to do both, and that each of us should work within where we find ourselves, or where we’re more inclined to make use of natural talents.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: